Q. How do I care for witch hazel?
Witch hazel's botanical name is Hamamelis. It is quite an adaptable plant in the landscape, with the minimal requirements of well-drained, preferably acid, soils and full sun to partial shade. They will not tolerate clay soil. Hamamelis flowers on old wood, beginning in fall through late winter depending on what species is growing.It is known for its fragrant, off-season flowers and fall leaf color. Grown against the dark backdrop of a hedge or wall, the delicate flowers and spindly branch system are shown to their best advantage.
The common witch hazel is Hamamelis virginiana, a wonderful native plant found in the wild as an understory plant, in moist soils, along stream banks. Hardy to Zone 3, it is also found on drier hillsides and mountainsides. It forms a large, multi-stemmed shrub or a small tree, with several spreading, crooked, gray-brown branches. The leaves turn a handsome yellow in fall. Fragrant yellow flowers appear relatively early for the genus, from October to as late as December. Unfortunately, fall foliage color develops as the flowers open, so much of the floral display may be lost.This witch hazel is the plant harvested and its extract distilled for the common astringent.
Hamamelis mollis (Chinese witch hazel) is a massive species, growing as a deciduous shrub of up to 12 feet tall and 12 feet wide with fragrant yellow to red flowers. Hamamelis vernalis (vernal witch hazel) is native to the Ozark Mountains and reknowned for its fragrance. It is mounded-rounded, often suckering and colonizing. Its leaves turn rich butter-yellow to golden yellow in autumn. Hamamelis japonica, Japanese witch hazel, can not tolerate the conditions of a northeastern winter but it has been crossed with Hamamelis virginiana to create Hamamelis x intermedia, hybrids with excellent garden potential, compact size, greater flower color variety and good fall leaf color.
Hope this helps.
Courtesy of the NYBG Plant Information Service